The author, Ian Mathie, had a penchant for making himself at home in the small villages of Africa, where his work took him in the 1970s. His London-based colleague Desmond thought he was mad. When Desmond stopped off to visit him in Upper Volta en route to inspect another project that was going wrong, he was thrown into the deep end culturally, medically and politically.
Desmond’s trip to Nigeria had unexpected and dramatic results. As well as revealing the devious dealings behind the problem that had brought him there, the experience frightened him badly and sent him scurrying back to Ian’s village, ill and unaware that he was under the influence of dark and mysterious forces.
Under the tender ministrations of the inscrutable witch-doctor, aided by the neighbour’s second wife, Desmond recovered slowly and began to appreciate the variety and complexities of African life. He learned about the local bureaucracy, endured a plague of locusts and the pestilence of a million fleas and adapted to village life as the rainy season began.
When his health improved, he worked with Ian and the villagers on the village well, training a team of masons to mix good concrete for the lining and descending into the bowels of the earth himself. He accompanied Ian on visits to a number of other development projects, including a visit to the well digging school in Mali and a nearby agricultural school run by an old Belgian priest who spent his lunch hours listening to Beethoven on a wind-up gramophone. Despite his initial reservations Desmond made good friends among the village artisans and became a particular favourite of the enigmatic Wa-Wa man.
WHAT THE REVIEWERS SAY
“An intriguing book, with plenty to offer those who are interested in understanding different cultures, and a great accompaniment to other texts documenting African culture. A recommended read which will have you turning pages in excitement and curiosity.” — Culturally Bound